Buffalo / Cattle / Dairying / Directorate / Event report / ILRI / India / PA / South Asia

India’s livestock development trajectory ‘exemplary’–Not only huge in aggregate but also small in scale and sustainable in nature

ILRI's Sapna Jarial translates speech by village council president on field day In Haryana by ILRI management and board

 ILRI’s Sapna Jarial translates a speech delivered by a village council president on field visit in Haryana, India, on 4 Nov 2012, made by ILRI management and board (photo credit: ILRI/Nils Teufel).

Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, a German livestock researcher and activist ‘for socially responsible and ecologically sustainable livestock development’, asks in a recent blog post, ‘Whose knowledge is more useful? Scientists or livestock keepers?’.

‘Recently I had the privilege to attend a “high-level” meeting between ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) and ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) bureaucrats and scientists. While interaction between such major institutions is important and necessary, I became a bit concerned about the underlying tenor of many of the presentations. For instance there were remarks about farmers/livestock keepers having no concept of animal nutrition and not being able to “calculate rations”. And there is this general attitude of believing that the farmer/livestock keeper is backward, illiterate and in need of guidance by scientists.’

Participants listen to presentations at ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue

Participants listen to presentations at ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue in New Delhi on 7 Nov 2012 (photo credit: ILRI/Nils Teufel).

As might be expected, ICAR had a different view of the day’s proceedings. It reports on its website, for example, that renowned Indian father of the ‘Green Revolution’ MS Swaminathan opened the day-long ILRI-ICAR livestock dialogue by expressing his appreciation for the efforts of the ICAR and ILRI in the field of livestock development in India and other countries, emphasizing four issues for developing and strengthening collaboration between two institutions. Swaminathan said that ‘Conservation of biodiversity and genetic resources in livestock is the foremost issue which needs to be addressed in view of the continuous threats. Nutrition, climate change and development of human resources are the other concerns for immediate and anticipatory action. . . . He suggested development of integrated crop-livestock farming system[s] and adoption of naturally bio-fortified foods for enhancing nutritional status of the Indian population.’

ILRI and ICAR organized a field visit to a dairy community in Haryana, India, on 4 Nov 2012, before their Partnership Dialogue on 7 Nov.

Women farmers in self-help groups at field visit in Haryana, India, by ILRI management and board

Women farmers in self-help groups (youths with badges are members of a newly formed dairy brigades) at a field visit in Haryana, India, made by ILRI management and board on 4 Nov 2012 (photo credit: ILRI).

The same ICAR article goes on to report that Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI highlighted the efforts of ICAR in the livestock sector and said he hoped for strengthening of research and development through collaborative initiatives. He said India’s ‘white revolution’ is led by demand for milk in the country, which helps elevate the nutritional status of many poor Indian households.

On the same day, KML Pathak, deputy director general for animal science at ICAR, presented a brief on India’s livestock wealth, highlighting the important role livestock play in supporting rural families and comprising nearly 27% of India’s agricultural gross domestic product. He said that ‘Over the years livestock has emerged as an independent entity and may be regarded as the main sector in place of an allied sector of agriculture.’ He emphasized the need for a ‘livestock revolution’ in the country for prosperity.

ICAR director general S Ayyappan and ILRI director general JimmySmith exchange signed copies of ILRI-ICAR MOU at ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue

ICAR director general S Ayyappan (right) and ILRI director general Jimmy Smith exchange signed copies of ILRI-ICAR MOU at ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue in New Delhi on 7 Nov 2012 (photo credit: ILRI/Nils Teufel).

Earlier, ICAR reported, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt, head of ILRI’s Asia’s operations, had welcomed the dignitaries and outlined the main feature of the ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue. Leaders of the government, research organizations, industry and non-governmental organizations would make presentations, she said, which would be followed by three discussion sessions on India’s smallholder dairy and small ruminant value chains, animal health, and animal feed and nutrition.

Participants of ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue

Senior experts and officials from ICAR, ILRI, CGIAR institutions, government departments, NGOs, farmer cooperatives and industries participated in the one-day ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue in New Delhi on 7 Nov 2012.

‘Nothing wrong with science’, Köhler-Rollefson went on to say in her blog, ‘but how many of the interventions developed by scientists are actually taken off the shelf and being put into use? And, considering that India is not only the largest dairy producer in the world, but also all set to become the global leader in beef exports , must the country’s livestock keepers not be doing many things right? Especially since this development has happened without any noteworthy extension activities, without animal health services reaching the more marginal areas, and without India (yet) becoming dependent on imports of feed stuff from other countries?’

Many readers knowledgable about India are aware of India’s love for milk and all things based on milk, such as yoghurts and lassis—watered yoghurts that are spiced, salted or sweetened—and a seemingly endless variety of ‘milk sweets’ sold in confectionary stores, all of which are ubiquitous throughout most of this vast country. But beef? In a country that is 40% vegetarian?

Well, take a look at these latest figures (Oct 2012) from the United States Department of Agriculture.

India beef exports surge to continue in 2013

Figure and caption credit: ‘Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade’, published by the Foreign Agricultural Service/United States Department of Agriculture, Oct 2012.

India beef exports climb on increasing supplies

‘India’s exports are forecast 29 per cent higher at record 2.16 million tons, comparable with Brazil’s world record exports of 2.19 million tons in 2007. India now accounts for nearly a quarter of world beef trade compared to a mere 8 per cent in 2009. This rapid expansion is fueled by demand for low-cost product in many smaller, emerging and price sensitive markets (Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia) as well as the ability to provide halal product.’ (Figure and caption credit: ‘Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade’, published by the Foreign Agricultural Service/United States Department of Agriculture, Oct 2012).

India beef production growth on herd size and slaughter rates

‘Beef production [in India] is forecast to climb 14 per cent to nearly 4.2 million tons fueled by robust foreign demand. Rising exports are triggering the construction of slaughterhouses providing farmers with a new market for non-productive buffalo heifers, bulls and bull calves. Indian federal and state laws prohibit the slaughter of cattle for religious concerns. Buffalo slaughter is allowed, although it is restricted to bulls and unproductive heifers.’ (Figure and caption credit: ‘Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade’, published by the Foreign Agricultural Service/United States Department of Agriculture, Oct 2012).

Shipments to Asia fuel Indian beef exports

Figure and caption credit: ‘Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade’, published by the Foreign Agricultural Service/United States Department of Agriculture, Oct 2012.

‘In fact, in my view’, Köhler-Rollefson goes on to say in her blog about the ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue on 7 Nov 2012, ‘India’s livestock development trajectory is exemplary . . . . This is because India’s non-poultry livestock production is still largely in the hand of small farmers and pastoralists who make optimal use of locally available feed and fodder resources—both crop by-products and natural, very bio-diverse, vegetation—with their indigenous breeds and by means of their extensive experience and willingness to innovate. Let’s ensure that it remains that way—in the interest of national food security, rural employment opportunities and conservation of biodiversity! . . .’

Farmers gather at secondary school for field visit by ILRI Management and board in Haryana, India

Farmers gather at secondary school for field visit by ILRI management and board in Haryana, India, on 4 Nov 2012 (photo credit: ILRI/Nils Teufel).

ILRI agrees with this recommendation by Köhler-Rollefson. And we’re pretty sure ICAR does, too. Although both institutions might argue that innovations from both public and private research organizations have helped build the foundations of the giant livestock smallholder/herder production in India, a country now not only the largest dairy producer in the world, but also the largest exporter of beef.

Perhaps it’s time to stop pondering over whose knowledge is most useful for the smallholder farmer and herder and work instead to bring all knowledge together in ways to best profit India’s smallholder livestock keepers, who individually and together have managed to put their country at the very forefront of today’s global livestock sector.

Read the full article by Ilse Köhler-Rollefson on her Animal Cultures Blog: A bit more respect for livestock keepers, please!, 12 Nov 2012.

Read the whole article on the website of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research: ILRI-ICAR Partnership Dialogue on livestock begins, 7 Nov 2012.

Read about the dialogue on ILRI’s News Blog: India’s booming livestock sector: On the cusp?–Or on a knife edge?, 8 Nov 2012.


2 thoughts on “India’s livestock development trajectory ‘exemplary’–Not only huge in aggregate but also small in scale and sustainable in nature

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